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Opening a Restaurant? The Licenses and Permits You Need

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: September 20, 2017
Image ESB Professional/Shutterstock

There is more to opening a restaurant than finding the right location and choosing a menu.

There is more to opening a restaurant than finding the right location and choosing a menu. Before you can open your business, you need to make sure that you have all of the correct licenses and permits required for the city and state in which you operate. This is especially important, because some licenses take weeks or even months to process, and you cannot open your restaurant until you have them.

The requirements for opening your restaurant will vary from state to state and city to city, but here is a list of some permits and licenses that you will most likely have to obtain to open a restaurant, no matter where you live.

Business license
First and foremost, you need a business license. You can apply for a business license in person at your city or county building. Check your county’s website for more information about its specific business license requirements. Business licenses typically need to be renewed annually and require a small fee.

Liquor license
If you intend to serve alcohol at your restaurant, you must have a liquor license. Depending on the state in which you live, you may have to apply for a different permit if you intend to serve wine and beer, or all kinds of liquor. Make sure to apply for your liquor license early, as it can take months to be approved.

Music license
One thing that is often overlooked is music licensing requirements. If you plan to play music in your restaurant, then you need a music license. This allows you to play copyrighted music without opening yourself up to liability for lawsuits or copyright violations.

Food handlers permit
Food handlers permits are required for anyone who comes in contact with the food served to your customers. This applies to preppers, cooks and servers. You put yourself at risk of health code violations and fees if you allow someone without a food handlers permit to enter your kitchen or touch the food.

Health and safety permits
In addition to food handlers permits for your employees, your building needs to be up to code for both health and safety. To obtain a health and safety permit for your restaurant, you must have a city or county representative come to your location and inspect the entire property. During the inspection, they may issue warnings and grant you a time frame for when you should have anything that is not up to code fixed. Failure to address safety or health violations will result in your permit being denied.

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